A new way to read.

I’ve had the iPad long enough to have made my way through three e-books, so I feel qualified to assess the experience, at least at a first-impression level. (The fact two of them were “A Game of Thrones” and “A Clash of Kings” is the reason the total isn’t much bigger. More on that in a minute.)

A friend of mine who’s a little further down this road said, when I expressed reservations at ever joining the Kindle generation, “You will,” which to my ears sounded like me talking to vinyl holdouts in the late ’80s, complaining about CDs. The wave of the future sweeps all before it, and while there will always be a place in the world for ink on paper, and I’m sure there will be some Brooklyn-hipster retro book movement down the road (they’ll call themselves “codexers”), e-books are here to stay. Which is fine, but to a far greater extent than CDs, they’ll change the experience of reading.

Unless you’re the sort of audiophile who really notices the difference between analog and digital recording — and I wasn’t, at least not at first — the prime selling point for CDs was convenience. They were smaller. They didn’t wear out, at least not quickly. They didn’t need to be flipped halfway through. You could have a party, and if someone pogoed too hard, they didn’t skip all over the place. Multi-disk changers meant you could load up an evening’s worth of music, press play and forget about it.

I don’t quite see the same argument for e-books. A Kindler I know who travels often says it’s a nice way to carry an armload of magazines onto a plane, and mentions the added value of being useful for the sort of books you want to leaf through or even read, but not necessarily buy in hardcover. The trendy non-fiction read of the month, say, or something dirty. An author here in Detroit says her erotica-penning colleagues are enjoying a renaissance via Kindle, as you no longer have to hold something with a whip on the cover while reading your lunch hour away on a park bench.

But as to the claim that ebooks will declutter your house? No, thanks. I love all my books, and only fail to love them at moving time. As I’m not likely to be moving again until I’m carried out feet-first, it won’t be my problem.

There are some advantages, though. Last month, I set up an interview with an author whose book was being published that day. Available electronically? Yes. Money in the Amazon account? Yes. (And thanks for that, all of you Kickback Lounge shoppers!) Click, click, and there it is. About as fast as it took you to read that last sentence. It takes just a few seconds. So great, more instant gratification for a nation swimming in it. There’s that.

Your comfort with the reading experience will depend on how you read, and that’s where my problems come in. Take George R.R. Martin’s fantasy series, for instance, the first two volumes I mentioned above. Every one is the size of a cinder block, and features nine million characters. Each volume features endpaper maps, and appendices that lay out all the families, clans and alliances between them all. I’m only at the end of the second book, and I can already see the series developing Harry Potter’s Disease — the sort of overwriting authors do, and editors permit, when a franchise has become so popular that fans clamor for more, more, more. (I haven’t read Harry Potter, but people whose opinion I respect say that each subsequent volume was more bloated than the last, and knowing some HP fans, I can see how it happened. They are black holes of need.)

But I’m at the point in “A Clash of Kings” where, if I were a reader of ink on paper, I’d be flipping ahead, skimming battle scenes, blowing off interior monologues and, of course, checking all those family trees, but I don’t, because I’m afraid of losing my place. (Yes, there’s a bookmarking system. I don’t like it.) At this point, in the final chapters, I feel like I’m driving a snowplow through 10 inches of slush.

On the other hand, I search for a living, and I’ve developed my eye for keywords. I like having a search function so, if I can remember a character’s name and its odd spelling — and I do remember, and they’re all odd — I can easily find his or her first appearance if I want to recheck something. I like that. And I like the fact I can read a 1,000-page novel in a slim little case the size of a file folder.

When I go on vacation next week, I’m taking “Just Kids” and “Djibouti” in analog form, and “A Storm of Swords” on the iPad. I’ll tell you how it works out.

So, bloggage:

Rick Perry says he wants to be president? Gee, I wonder what he’ll decide. Stop teasing and get it over with, a’ready.

Meanwhile, you’re not paying enough attention to Sarah! She will not be ignored!

And with that, I must run. Be good, all.

UPDATE: Oops, almost forgot! The heartbreak of cleavage wrinkles. The New York Times is ON IT.

Posted at 11:00 am in Current events, Popculch |

41 responses to “A new way to read.”

  1. Linda said on August 11, 2011 at 11:14 am

    The last link reminds me of a Jeff Foxworthy joke about women beyond a certain age showing off their balconies, and comparing it to an aerial view of the Grand Canyon.

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  2. nancy said on August 11, 2011 at 11:16 am

    Earlier in the week, their main health story was on senior citizens who get plastic surgery. Lead anecdote was on an 83-year-old who got her boobs done, yes, with augmentation.

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  3. brian stouder said on August 11, 2011 at 11:19 am

    I will have a fuller response (so to speak) later on – but the by-line on boob wrinkle piece got me laughing!

    Taffy Brodesser-Akner?

    edit: and a question for Kirk – isn’t that lead sentence a blatant colloquialism?

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  4. LAMary said on August 11, 2011 at 11:20 am

    When I’m reading a long book on my Kindle, I find myself closing the Kindle and looking at it edge-on to see how far I’ve gotten. I’m glad no on sees me doing this.

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  5. coozledad said on August 11, 2011 at 11:20 am

    Thank you NY Times. I’ve been searching for an idea for an internet bidness to put in the sidebar on the Weather Channel site for ages now:
    ‘North Carolina Man solves mystery of cleavage wrinkles with this one weird trick’
    Cleavage wrinkles is awkward. How about Clinkles? or Truts?

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  6. Sue said on August 11, 2011 at 11:28 am

    I haven’t thought too much about the e-books thing, just assuming I’d always want to stay in the lovely, lovely world of never having too many books, that physical and emotional place where you can feel the presence of paper and words around you.
    Works with cats, too, which is why the two are so often linked and why you can’t just have a few of either.
    Anyway… I’m beginning to face the sad reality that an e-book thingy is in my future, because I just can’t see the damn words anymore. Glasses go on, much head-adjusting, then comes a footnote in a smaller font size so the gyrations begin again, maybe the lights around me aren’t bright enough, etc. etc. I’m fast approaching the need for a font size in the seven-letters-per-line range, I think, and an e-book that allows me to adjust for larger print would be a blessing. Yesterday I was at the hairdressers’ sitting with goop in my hair for 45 minutes, unable to put on my glasses, holding the book as far away as I could, looking even more ridiculous than if I were just sitting there quietly reading with an Edward Scissorhands ‘do like usual.
    And Nancy forgot to mention another sad casualty of the coming e-book revolution – the fun of going into someone’s house and reading their personality (or the personality they want to project, that’s even more fun) by sneaking a peak at the book titles (or lack) around the house.

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  7. Mary o said on August 11, 2011 at 11:35 am

    My husband bought the packaged set of the Game of Thrones books just as I got the first installment on my iPad. I’ll take the iPad version. The typeface in the books is way too small for my straining eyes. So it looks very trendy for us to have the books at home but I will continue to buy for iPad. I feel very mixed about this. And the cleavage wrinkles story: hilarious! What would we do without the NY Times chronicling the lives of the rich and aging desperate among us?

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  8. Mary o said on August 11, 2011 at 11:37 am

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  9. Julie Robinson said on August 11, 2011 at 11:38 am

    Mary, I have found myself attempting to turn the page on my Nook more than once.

    With my usual great timing, I bought a Nook about two months before they upgraded. In general I really like it anyway, but the search function is crappy. Between the free Friday books and our library I’ve spent less than $20 on books so far.

    Our daughter was just gifted with an iPad from a friend who was buying the next generation. Anyone have app recommendations for her?

    When I read the story about cleavage wrinkles I immediately checked to see if I was sporting any. Nope. But $Palin looks to be well on her way.

    Edit: Enlarging the font size is a major e-reader plus for me too. The eyes they stink.

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  10. coozledad said on August 11, 2011 at 11:40 am

    I couldn’t tell if that Halperin-Perry interview was via the phone, or not, but oddly, my first thought was that would be an ideal room to walk in and fart.

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  11. basset said on August 11, 2011 at 11:54 am

    Nance, a flood is a great way to declutter your library. Twice this week I looked for books I don’t have any more.

    This was one of them, I had a no doubt much more valuable earlier edition:


    Prospero, got the mandolin instruction book yet?

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  12. Jeff Borden said on August 11, 2011 at 12:00 pm

    I would like to think the nation has had enough of shallow goobers from Texas with a messianic complex. If I never hear another Texas accent in the Oval Office again, I will die a happy man. Perry has made enough ridiculous comments over the years that opposition research should be a snap.

    And of course Mooselini is going to Iowa, though she will never again run for public office. As Nancita point out, the quitter from Wasilla has been out of the spotlight for awhile, so she needs to poke her head out into public so the rubes and idiots who worship her will be primed to buy her next book.

    BTW, I see her oldest son already is a father just months after getting married. Apparently, everyone in Alaska, or at least the Palin clan, is already knocked up when they get hitched. Or, in Bristol’s case, don’t get hitched. These folks are the very definition of snowbillies.

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  13. adrianne said on August 11, 2011 at 12:02 pm

    Nance, I think you’re a typical Kindle user – it’s cool for some things, but not for others. Every Kindle or Nook person I know also has a huge collection of books. So they’re definitely not mutually exclusive.

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  14. beb said on August 11, 2011 at 12:08 pm

    My daughter was complaining recently about all the women’s clothing stores in the mall. The whole concept of fashion is opaque to her. Jeans, a T and tennies fills her needs. Men, she argued have it better since they don’t have to dress up. Reading that article on breast wrinkles (WTF?) I have to agree with her. Men have it easier (manboobs aside) You’ll never hear about penis wrinkles.

    I was reading an Agatha Christie from the 70s. A paperback. I was astonished how hard it was to read. The type was so small. A lot smaller than paperback fonts are today.

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  15. april glaspie said on August 11, 2011 at 12:11 pm

    R.R, is self-absorbed. What an astounding discovery. I imagine I’ll read those books if excess doesn’t kill me first. Cooz, you have only to expose the monstrosity. Please do not. But at least you got bidness spelt write. This is ridiculous. Books are books, and there is something important about tactile. Sorry, I love books in my hands. This is an idpteic discussion. I just read The Loved One, for the second timw, I’s forgotten how sublime the sarcasm and the sardinicism were. Books on internet aren’t books, This is kinda obvipus. People will decide what books ypu get tp red. That is a truly horrible thing, no matter how well-meaning” they are.

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  16. Sue said on August 11, 2011 at 12:12 pm

    Sorry to change subjects, but this is too good not to share re next week’s recall elections in WI:
    In one of the races, the opposing candidate is a Tea Party member and children’s book author (“With My Rifle By My Side”). Here is her provided answer to question #4 in a list submitted by a couple of senior citizen advocacy groups. All errors are original.

    4. Do you support collecting sales taxes on internet sales (e-fairness) to create a level playing field for Main Street businesses and increase revenues to support vital programs for the elderly?

    I believe one of the problems with healthcare is that there are so many discrepancies and the lack of transparency in the cost of care, that includes perspiration drugs. levying a sales tax on internet transactions doesn’t lower the cost of healthcare it makes the more affordable option more expensive. We should be looking at ways to make healthcare and perception drugs cheaper and that should include FDA approved internet suppliers. True competition will help lower the prices of prescription drugs, we shouldn’t be looking to increase prices because of taxes, and this will only make this situation more difficult for our seniors.


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  17. Connie said on August 11, 2011 at 12:24 pm

    I’ve had a Kobo for a while (Border’s cheap nook) and mostly used it for library downloads and other free downloads. I had just bought a really cheap Cruze android based ereader tablet when my employer unexpectedly decided to buy all high level managers (me!) an ipad 2. So I’ve had the ipad like two weeks and am still figuring it out, but no problems downloading library ebooks on it. I bought the Cruze because I wanted a reader with a lit screen for night time. It’s still in the box it was shipped in untouched, anyone want a cheap deal?

    I thought about buying the ebook version of Game of Thrones. Kobo lists it at 29.99 and Barnes and Noble at 8.99. Not a hard choice.

    There is a kindle app for the ipad, and I am happy with ebooks in the GGood Reader app.

    Demand for library ebook downloads has grown exponentially in recent months. At the last ALA Conference several vendors announced new ebooks programs including 3M and Recorded Books. Our Overdrive consortium is so overwhelmed that if you search available fiction you get maybe 200 available titles. Holds, holds, holds. It is the publisher’s licensing model but why can’t we do multiple simultaneous downloads of digital content? Frustrating.

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  18. JenC said on August 11, 2011 at 12:37 pm

    My Kindle is full of fiction, but real paper books still clutter up my nightstand. I prefer to read a book when it’s a nonfiction work, or more complex, such as those epic tomes with multiple families that require I flip back to remind myself of a character’s history. A side-effect of school, for me, is the tendency to underline and mark pages with sticky notes, especially for anything I’m reading for work. The friend who recommended the Kindle to me insists that you can still make notes, highlight and bookmark, but I don’t find it easy to do.
    I also made a folder on my Kindle called “To Buy” – full of the sample chapters that made a good impression. I use this as a shopping list for visits to my local bookstore. Unfortunately, with Borders closing, my city of 140,000 will be left with only a small used bookstore that gives away copies of Ayn Rand and decorates with posters that say “Who is John Galt?” But that’s a rant for another day.

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  19. Jolene said on August 11, 2011 at 12:54 pm

    That interview w/ Rick Perry doesn’t do anything to contradict the idea that he is the candidate for people who found GWB too cerebral. Platitudes, repetition, simple solutions–he’s got ’em all. I actually kind of hope he wins the nomination as I think he’ll be easier for Obama to beat.

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  20. Little Bird said on August 11, 2011 at 12:57 pm

    I am looking into getting a Kindle, while at the same time exchanging those paperbacks that I love for hardcover versions. I have been getting paperbacks because they’re cheaper and lighter, which is good for travel. But I really want that Kindle so I can take an entire library of stuff with me when I do travel and not have to sacrifice luggage space (or carry yet another bag). Also, I want my shelves to look less … junky.

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  21. Julie Robinson said on August 11, 2011 at 1:43 pm

    You’ve nailed it, Jolene. His lack of introspection makes Bush look like a philosopher. And the use of the royal “we” pisses me off. Actually, just hearing his voice pisses me off; it’s too similar to GWB and evokes immediate anger.

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  22. coozledad said on August 11, 2011 at 2:09 pm

    Mitt’s getting a hard time for stating the obvious. Corporations ARE people. I remember that time the Wal-Mart Corporation got caught beating off in its own lingerie section like it was yesterday.

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  23. Deborah said on August 11, 2011 at 2:09 pm

    I’m sending this from Minneapolis again. This isn’t even a day trip, it’s a half day trip. I’m here for a 1 hour meeting that means hours and hours of travel if you count the time at the airport going through security and everything. What a waste. It could have been done over the phone. Nice weather here, same as Chicago.

    I have no cleavage, or very little, so don’t have to worry about wrinkles there. The only time I’ve ever been happy about no cleavage.

    I’m hoping Michele Bachmann will be the GOP candidate. I think Obama’s chance are better. But I think it’s going to be Romney. I certainly won’t be watching the debate tonight.

    I’m thinking about taking the day off tomorrow, just because.

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  24. april glaspie said on August 11, 2011 at 2:38 pm

    I’ve got a free Kindle download and I read a great short story by RA Lafferty on it. But books is books. There is nothing like how they feel in your hand. I’m no Luddite, but books are purely beautiful, as objects, and if people give that up, it’s Another Temple Gone. I own a first edition of The American Language by HL Mencken, the greatest newspaperman that ever lived. I read it regularly. If somebody wants to claim I’d enjoy this as much on an electronic device, I say bullshit.

    Cooz, that is hilarious. Wal-Mart used to be an amazing story of Murrica Can Do. Then Sam died and the cretin children took over, with their guns and knives out.

    I’ve no cleavage either. In retrospect, now that Sarah is back in the mix, didn’t that bimbo put on those clothes and pose for that picture? And now she’s offended and calling sexism? As Sherman Potter would say about GOPers in general, what a horse’s patoot!?!! And Americans used to watch MASH, and now they sit like freakazoids in front of The Office and Idol and Dancing? WTF?

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  25. ROGirl said on August 11, 2011 at 2:53 pm

    I was having a hard time visualizing what the hell cleavage wrinkles are and I found this before and after picture.


    It’s not a problem I suffer from, so I never knew it existed.

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  26. Julie Robinson said on August 11, 2011 at 3:16 pm

    Deborah, haven’t your bosses heard of Skype? It seems like a no-brainer to me. Didn’t they lose you for the rest of the day?

    As usual, Coozledad wins the thread with an image I’ll find hard to get out of my brain.

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  27. Snarkworth said on August 11, 2011 at 3:45 pm

    I have a Sony e-reader and like it OK, except that it’s very hard to go back and check anything from earlier in the book. This really matters with mysteries, in which something that happens early on turns out much later to be a clue. It’s easier to flip back and find it in a paper book.

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  28. MichaelG said on August 11, 2011 at 3:54 pm

    Mary, I sympathize with your problem, Once when I had to fax something to six people I first made six copies. You know, one to fax to each.

    Is there a Kindle koffee table book for those art prints and architectural renderings? How does that work?

    Here’s your daily, heart warming animal story.


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  29. Jeff Borden said on August 11, 2011 at 3:58 pm

    I love something Tbogg wrote on his site today about SheWho. “The only difference between Sarah Palin and Michella Salahi is that Sarah will never get into the White House.”

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  30. Dexter said on August 11, 2011 at 4:47 pm

    I always read the tech pages in all those newspapers I got in the 1980s and 1990s and I remember a story saying we would be foolish to replace old music and buy new music on CDs because mini CDs were the future…and CDs were about to become the biggest flop since the 8-Track became a national joke. So I waited…I waited some more…and it became clear I was the one who had been duped…those mini-CDs blew up only in Japan for a short time. They were never even pushed out to the public here in the USA.
    After that experience, I was leery of all the rapid-fire changes; I didn’t want to be such a Luddite, but I also didn’t want to buy all my new entertainment products on a flash-in-the pan device or system. I was late getting a vcr as well as a dvd player, and only got a Blu-Ray a year ago. Oh well…since I am happy with my hi-def Tv and my Blu-Ray player, now 3D televisions are the current standard TVs.
    But I don’t give a damn about 3D TV…enough is enough.
    My Sony e-reader is OK, but I am not an enthusiast, not yet.
    My blogging guru Craig Crawford and I were discussing which format to buy new copies of the Mark Twain 100 year anniversary autobiography…he had originally decided on a Kindle version but in the end he bought the hardback edition, telling me Samuel Clemens probably wouldn’t have approved of his book in e-form. I left it at that…but now I wonder…would Mark Twain hail the e-readers as wonderful progress? I reckon we’ll never know.

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  31. Scout said on August 11, 2011 at 5:07 pm

    Normally I cannot stomach reader comments, but the people who weighed in on the SheWho story cracked me up. There were a few Palin Zombies there to cheerlead on her behalf but they were way outnumbered.

    We’re also a Kindle family with full bookshelves plus nightstands piled with library books. We love to read, so it’s all good stuff to us.

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  32. LAMary said on August 11, 2011 at 6:09 pm

    Dexter, I don’t have a DVD player and the TV I have is about 12 years old. One household member watches movies on his computer and another on his X-Box. I don’t care enough about movies on TV to make any effort to get a jazzier way to view them. I only have basic cable. I don’t need to see the pores in Jon Stewart’s face.

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  33. Sherri said on August 11, 2011 at 6:38 pm

    I’m a Kindle lover. I have more books than I have places to store them, but I find that I prefer reading on my Kindle now. The search function is great, and so is the dictionary function – that word that I sort of know the meaning of, but am not quite sure of, I can now look up easily, so I do. I like that I can adjust the font size when my eyes are tired, and that I can read without hands; no need to hold the book open. It’s also a whole lot easier to find my books on my Kindle than my bookshelves, which never seem to stay organized very long.

    I’ve been using a Kindle for over three years now, and have read over a hundred books on one of the three Kindles I’ve owned (I’ve upgraded to the newest generation each time.) I knew I had reached a tipping point when I was re-reading an old paperback book I owned, and I decided I’d rather re-buy it and read it on my Kindle. Mass-market paperbacks don’t hold up over time very well; the yellowing pages were difficult for my old eyes to read.

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  34. MichaelG said on August 11, 2011 at 6:50 pm

    Robbery is a great upgrader, Mary. Every time I get burglarized, I get a bigger TV and a faster computer.

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  35. LAMary said on August 11, 2011 at 6:56 pm

    I’ll put Max the Great Dane/Boxer on hiatus and maybe we’ll get robbed. So far Max has done and exemplary job of screening visitors, what with his 140 pounds of muscle and large jaw filled with lots of teeth. The Lab and the Golden are back-ups, and I suspect my big male cat would step in and help if necessary.

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  36. paddyo' said on August 11, 2011 at 7:54 pm

    Excuse me, Madame Moo$elini, but your bound-for-Iowa line that you plan to “put forth efforts to revitalize the fundamental restoration of America” sounds more like something Mussolini might have said.

    Is it just me, or do the speeches by these hard-right blowhards increasingly sound like the rantings of tinpot dictators pledging to bury the rest of us?

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  37. Rana said on August 11, 2011 at 8:55 pm

    It’s funny, because most of the Kindle alternatives I see mentioned are things like paper books, or magazines – while if I were to get a Kindle it would be so that I’d be able to read ebooks without having to turn on my laptop (and its sweet, sweet seductions of the internet). Regular books are just so different in my mind I don’t see them taking up the same mental space as a Kindle – but I do feel like Kindles and laptops are kindred.

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  38. coozledad said on August 11, 2011 at 9:08 pm

    Beginning that long look back, finally. It occurred to me they’d torture American nationals who stood in their way. I didn’t think they’d go so far as to torture folks working for the FBI.

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  39. brian stouder said on August 11, 2011 at 9:59 pm

    but I do feel like Kindles and laptops are kindred.

    Several friends have those “iPad” computers, and I can see the allure of those, and the end of push-button keyboards (and the dirt that they collect); and with it, the further allure of e-readers. Pam has had a Nook for something like 6 months, and she has read something like three dozen books on it. As Julie says – the free-Friday books (and the bargain books) and the Allen County Public Library’s growing collection of e-titles have all contributed to this. Also, it seems that she has been reading several series-books.

    I’m with Prospero – gimme a printed book that arbitrarily is what it is; the font and the type-size and the mass and the feel. Still, and despite that, the printed word maintains its power and mystique, whether it’s printed in ink, or pixels. It remains an imaginitive medium, rather than a graphic one, and the allure is apparently timeless. You read a book, and you own the exclusive experience it provided; no director or producer wins a glittering award for the vision THEY put into your brain – it is between you and the person who wrote the book, period. I like that.

    Aside from that, I hope Alex’s household weathered this day as well as possible. In our family, Pam is the strong one when it comes to these things. She ascribes it to having grown up as a farm girl, where death is a fairly common thing. But really, I think that’s baloney. Death of a beloved animal might be more familiar on a farm, but it cannot be any easier.

    (There’s a Lincoln story about death, wherein he writes a letter of condolence to a young girl who lost her father [at the hands of one of Governor Perry’s ‘freedom fighters’, but we digress!], and laments how much harder these things are on the young, since it’s all a terrible surprise for them, whereas people who are older have seen this before and know what to expect)

    edit: http://showcase.netins.net/web/creative/lincoln/speeches/mccull.htm

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  40. Julie Robinson said on August 11, 2011 at 11:05 pm

    Who was it that said stop mentioning books to read? I feel that way too sometimes because they are always, always a siren call. Nevertheless, I will pass along this list I just found, NPR’s Top 100 Science-Fiction and Fantasy books. Although I never thought of myself as a science-fiction fan, I’m amazed at how many of these titles I’ve read and enjoyed.

    The best description on this list is of Tolkien’s Silmarillion, as being “for those who found The Lord of the Rings too breezy and slight”. Ha-ha, a little NPR humor there.


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  41. Connie said on August 12, 2011 at 6:43 am

    And I voted! I will hold back my rant about fantasy no longer being considered something different and how it is taking over science fiction.

    But will still recommend Patrick Rothfuss’ “Name of the Wind” as a new addition to the list of great fantasy of all time.

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